Encounter is a narrative driven performance piece with twists and turns.
Kirby Medway’s short story provokes conclusions of fact or fiction. Director Sanja Simic ddirects the astounding performance.
Mark Rogers, Lucy Heffernan and Solomon Thomas perform the intriguing story from 2012 or another world? All three resembled people preparing for a storm. They all wore long canary yellow rain coats. They certainly looked as if they’d seen a ghost with their faces painted white.
Lucy Heffernan plays Kirby Medway, a journalist. I’d assumed she was a member of the stage crew. Her white face and coat gave her identity away. She introduces her character nestled amongst the small audience. Lit only by the light of her iPad, her voice over is the narrative of Kirby Medway’s story.
Soloman Thomas is below on the stage. He sits on a milk crate huddled over the sound and mixing equipment. His white face is obscured by the hood of his raincoat up over his head. He calmly and silently, manipulates the equipment to provide a backdrop of haunting tones to accompany the narrative.
Kirby’s account invites us to view her story in her words as “not” fiction. Lucy narrates a particular day of Kirby’s life as a journalist who writes about public parks. Lucy reads the prose with good diction in her voice and the story seems innocent and credible.
Listening intently, I can picture Kirby sitting on a park bench with her audio recorder beside her and the ear phones attached. She describes the mundane process she uses to record the park noises of birds, water features and air to use as background noise in her productions.
I teeter on boredom from listening without any visuals, when another white faced and raincoat clad man stands at an open door at the rear of the stage. Lucy continues narrating and Mark Rogers, the man, enters and limbers up.
Mark Rogers is the running man. He performs a series of stretches very slowly. His coat covers his bare chest, black running shorts, white sport socks and vintage runners from the 80s. He too is white faced and has his hood over his head.
Mark holds stretches at length while we hear of the journalist’s activity in the park. She listens to the surrounding sounds via her head phones, to check the volume of her recording. Suddenly she hears distant thuds and recognises them as footsteps of a nearby suspected jogger.
The footsteps become rapid and increase in sound as they draw closer. Kirby is fearful to look in the direction they’re coming from. The steps stop short at the bench where she is sitting. She confirms it was a man jogging who had stopped running and fell to the ground. His abrupt cessation and pungent body odour alarms her. He asks her what day and year it is.
Lucy recites Kirby’s transcript and the dialogue that took place between the running man and the journalist. She speaks in a convincing male voice for the running man. The transcripts provide some details of his unusual running escapades over the last twenty years.
The narration stops. Mark stops stretching and removes his raincoat. He begins running on the spot. Loud techno music accentuates the urgency and intensity of his gait. He stops and proceeds to speak in rapid long sentences and takes intermittent breaths.
We learn the running man was once an office worker. He animates riding his bicycle to and from work. The speed of his conversation denotes his constant unnerving feeling of something lurking in the shadows. The creature first appears near his home and then at his workplace.
He speaks of an evil dark mass waiting for him that eventually evolves into a monster with glowing yellow eyes. The running man has exaggerated movements that are almost comedic. From his behaviour, I’m inclined to think he has a mental disorder.
Lucy continues the transcript in real time with Mark. The dialogue opens up between them from within the audience and the stage. The running man pre-empts his anxious feelings and consequent departure. He stays long enough to tell her more about the creature responsible for his fear.
The transcript hints at the beginning of their trusting relationship. There are humorous undertones as they discuss the basic requirements of his running lifestyle. In subdued tones, he adds the time when he did stop running in the last twenty years. He mentions a small town and farmhouse where he felt safe for two months. Then he is spooked by the feeling the monster is nearby and he runs away from her and off the stage.
Soloman ramps up the mood with loud notes as both players exit. Lucy returns and is the monster!
Lucy crawls about the floor. The raincoat is no where to be seen. From beneath a skimpy white t-shirt and reflective silver wig covering her entire face; her slim form contorts her limbs into inhumane poses.
Mark aka the running man, now resides in the audience. He has become the voice over and narrates the dialogue of the journalist. The transcript suggests the monster has sat beside the journalist on the park bench. Lucy is a striking eerie figure and speaks in guttural mutterings. The monster defends its reason for chasing the running man.
The narration tells the journalist has gained the confidence of the running man’s antagonist until the monster is spooked and runs away. Mark Rogers has changed costume whilst narrating and now portrays a bearded lumbar shirted and weapon wielding, farmer.
The journalist and farmer are side by side on stage. The journalist cowers, afraid of the bearded stranger with a gun. The farmer is angry and aims his pistol at her.
In this tense moment, Kirby and Simic create comic relief as their characters briefly discuss the morality of deliberate fear mongering.
Soloman takes his turn at narration and executes Liam Halliwell’s composition of percussive sounds and expressive music throughout the performance.
A belief in the supernatural is not a prerequisite to view the outstanding production from Woodcourt Art Theatre. La Mama Theatre always warmly opens its doors to all humans and visitors.